Program basics

  • Mission: With love and respect, YouthBuild partners with opportunity youth to build the skillsets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership.
  • Within the opportunity youth population — young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed — the YouthBuild movement primarily serves young people who lack a high school diploma and financial resources.
  • Each YouthBuild program provides job training in construction and other high-demand employment sectors while helping participants refine soft skills such as teamwork, problem solving, communication and adaptability.
  • Through hundreds of YouthBuild programs in the United States and around the globe, opportunity youth pursue their education, prepare for future careers, and grow into community leaders – building brighter futures for themselves, and their neighborhoods.

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Promising (Third-highest tier)


Promising (Third-highest tier)

YouthBuild is ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice, insufficient evidence in the US Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse, and insufficient evidence in the California Evidence Based Clearinghouse

Target population

At-risk youth

Program cost

MDRC study estimates $24,000 per participant

Implementation locations

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • An MDRC evaluation found that YouthBuild increased GED attainment by 14 percentage points at 30 months
  • The MDRC evaluation also found that YouthBuild increased average weekly earnings by $15.70
  • 80 percent of YouthBuild enrollees in the United States obtain high school equivalency diplomas or other recognized credentials
  • 50 percent of YouthBuild enrollees in the United States go on to postsecondary education or jobs averaging $12.09 per hour
  • To date, more than 180,000 YouthBuild participants worldwide have built more than 35,000 units of affordable housing and other community assets such as community centers and schools.

Keys to successful implementation

  • While the specific make-up of local YouthBuild programs may vary according to local circumstances, YouthBuild's holistic program model combines five core elements: education, job training, support services, leadership development, and alumni success.
  • In addition to the five core elements of its model, YouthBuild welcomes opportunity youth with love.
  • Participants benefit from services that support them in managing and addressing personal barriers to success, allowing them to pursue their education and livelihood aspirations. Support services include case management, mentoring, career counseling, mental wellness resources, and life skills coaching.
  • YouthBuild's focus on service and leadership is designed to help participants build their social capital.
  • Partnerships between local YouthBuild programs and various public and private entities (Departments of Corrections, Parole, Human Services, public school systems) aid recruitment.
  • Participants are required to pass a skills- and interview-based assessment, followed by a "Mental Toughness Orientation" to ensure a high standard of commitment from participants.

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